MILFORD is to get its own version of the Vicar of Dibley as it prepares to welcome the first female priest to take charge of the parish in its 850-year history.
The Rev. Natasha Anderson, known as Tasha, has a background in children and families’ ministry, and described her new role based from All Saints’ Church as “exciting”.
She said: “I am looking forward to it very much. It is a beautiful part of the world to be living and working in. It’s even more of an honour to be the first woman to have the job.”
She will be moving from the Arle Valley Benfice near Alesford to take over the Milford and Everton parish, hopefully sometime in April.
Previously she worked for Christ Church, Winchester, overseeing the children and families’ ministry working with a team of up to 125 volunteers.
She became a vicar after working for Winchester’s Peter Symonds College as a lecturer in the adult education and family learning department.
But the transition to the church did not come easily, Tasha revealed: “I describe it as like being drawn by a magnet. It is a vocation, a calling. I was very happy doing the job I was in, but little spokes kept coming together like the wheel of a bicycle.
“Different experiences, different places, all coming together. It was a combination of life experiences and life moments.
“But at the same time, I realised that becoming a priest was something that comes with a huge amount of responsibility and a huge change in lifestyle.
“At first it was a bit of a struggle within. I was feeling slowly drawn to open a door, I felt compelled to push it open. But at the same time, I was wrestling with it as well.
“It’s a massive gift but it comes with such responsibility. It’s daunting, especially when you realise the depth of it – the responsibility entrusted with you to care for the whole community.
“I had to consider it very, very seriously. It is not something that can be entered into lightly, you have to be really passionate about it.
“But finally, I just stepped out in faith and trust. I just kept stepping forward and let God take the rest.”
A divorced mother of two grown-up children, Tasha knows the New Forest area well, having family who have lived here for many years. She will be living in the vicarage in Milford.
Tasha said: “I have visited the area a lot and really love it. I love the beach and the Forest. The village is lovely being close to both and has a lovely sense of community. I am looking forward to becoming part of it and getting to know people.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what God has for us. This is such a difficult time for all of us and I think we just have to take one day at a time, something the Bible teaches us.
“At the moment we cannot hold services, but I am hoping they will start soon. My message for people at the moment is that there will be things we will all need to learn coming out of this pandemic which we can do together.”
Milford parish has been without a vicar since July 2019, when the Rev. Dominic Furness retired. When permitted, it has remained open for private prayer during the pandemic.
There is also a pastoral care team on standby with a telephone helpline manned by 60 volunteers who are supporting those who feel lonely during the lockdown.
An online service is also available at allsaintsmilford.co.uk/services-during-covid-19-pandemic